152 What is Justifying Faith, of Which Scripture Speaks?
- The definition of faith is well known; but to the unlearned it can most simply be explained thus: The object of faith in general is the Word of God; for we ought to apply faith to every Word divinely given and revealed. But justifying faith has its own and special object that it seeks in Holy Scripture and that it regards and apprehends, namely Christ our Mediator and the promise of grace, which is given for the sake of Christ. Rom 3:24-25; 4:13,16; Gal 3:22.
- [PAR – Chemnitz repeats yet again what the object of justifying faith is: “Christ our Mediator and the promise of grace, which is given for the sake of Christ.”]
153 But How Does Faith Apprehend and Embrace the Object that is Proper to It?
- First, it learns from the Word of God to recognize the person, office, merit, and benefits of Christ; all these things it holds to be altogether true and certain. Eph 1:17; 4:13; Col 2:2.
Second, justifying faith apprehends all those things not as simple history, nor only insofar as they are in themselves true in general, but in such a way that it specifically includes the person of the believer in that promise of grace, so that each believer apprehends and receives Christ in the Word and the Sacraments with true confidence of the heart as given personally to him, and applies them to himself individually. And though this faith is often attacked by various temptations and of itself is weak and languid, yet it surely is faith by which each one specially or warmly believes and trusts that sins are forgiven him by God for the sake of Christ, that he is received into grace, [and] that he is adopted into the sonship of God. Jn 1:12; 3:15–16; Ro 1:16; 3:22; 4:16, 23-24; 5:1-2; 8:35, 38–39; 10:4,9; 1 Ti 1:16; Mt 9:22; Lk 7:50.
- [PAR – Just a note here on the three phrases toward the end: “that sins are forgiven him by God…that he is received into grace…that he is adopted into the sonship of God.” Chemnitz coordinates all three of these phrases. They accompany one another. God forgives a person his sins, God receives a person into grace, and God adopts a person as His son. Why? Because God examines a person's faith and then approves it and rewards it? No, but because through faith in Christ, we receive Christ and are clothed with Christ, and therefore God judges us, not based on our faith, but based on Christ, whom he graciously sees in us who believe. Just as our adoption as God’s sons takes place through Baptism and faith (Gal. 3:26-27), so also the reception of grace and having one’s sins forgiven take place through Baptism and faith.]
154 What If a Secure Epicurean, Without Repentance, Holding Fast to the Intent to Continue in Sins, Forms This Conviction, that He Nevertheless Has a Merciful God-is that Kind of Conviction True and Justifying Faith?
- By no means. For faith is not this kind of conviction, that it is immaterial before God to remain in sins or desist from sins, to love sins or detest them; true faith likewise does not seek this in Christ, that it dares to indulge in sins and give rein to them securely and freely, without any fear, in the hope of impunity. But the nature and property of true faith is seen and recognized in sincere repentance, namely when the heart acknowledges its sins in such a way that it seriously shudders in acknowledging the wrath of God, and no longer delights in sin, but is seriously and earnestly troubled, lest it fall into danger of eternal damnation. When faith, in such repentance or contrition, looks around for Christ, seeks [Him], looks to [Him] and apprehends [Him], desiring, seeking, believing, and trusting that sins are remitted to him for the sake of Christ, etc., this very thing is a very sure indication of true and justifying faith. Is 61:1; 66:2; Mt 9:12.
155 But You May Find Many Who Boast that They Have Faith, Though They Neglect and Despise the Word and the Sacraments.
- One departs from true faith also this way. Hearing the Word, and faith, are correlative, for faith is conceived, nourished, and increased thereby. He who wants to apprehend Christ by faith must know where he should look and [where] he can find Him, namely in the Word and the Sacraments. Likewise, if faith, as our hand, is to receive anything from God, we must not seek it outside the Word and without the Word, out of the air, as it were, but receive [it] from the hand of God, which He opens in the Word and the Sacraments, offering us the fullness of His grace. For God has determined to deal with us at this point through the Word of the Gospel and the Sacraments. Ro 10:17; Tts 3:5.
156 Can Man by His Own Free Will or by Virtue of His Own Powers Acquire This Faith?
- No. 2 Thess 3:2. It is a gift of God, Philippians 1:29, not of yourselves, Eph 2:8. By nature we are foolish and slow of heart to believe, Lk 24:25. God opens and enlightens the heart and mind and kindles faith in the heart. Lk 24:25; Acts 16:14; 2 Co 4:6; Eph 1:17–18. Faith is not wrought by our human powers, but according to the working of the mighty power of God, Eph 1:19.
157 Are There, Then, in the Activity and Exercise of Faith No Actions or Feelings of the Human Mind, Will, and Heart Whatever?
- The intellect, heart, and will of man (of whatever kind they are of themselves by the first birth, before they are illumined and renewed by the Holy Spirit) cannot contribute anything or cooperate in beginning and establishing faith. 1 Co 2:14; 2 Co 4:4; Dt 29:4. For reason is by nature in conflict with faith. Lk 24:25; 1 Co 2:14. Therefore it is to be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 2 Co 10:5. Yet faith does not exist without certain feelings or actions in the mind, will, and heart of man. For faith is nothing else than assent in the mind, and trust in the will, regarding, apprehending, accepting, and applying to itself the promise of grace. As for the rest, man cannot by his own natural powers conceive, begin, and perfect those feelings, nor does he have this of himself, but it is a special gift of God, who works that very thing in the intellect, heart, and will of man by the power and efficacy of the Holy Spirit.
- [PAR – It is often asserted that the teaching of “universal objective justification” is necessary in order to guard against synergism (that is, the teaching that faith is man’s contribution to his salvation). Likewise, it is asserted that the formulation of UOJ in the 19th and early 20th Centuries was vital in combating the synergists who gave at least some credit to man in producing faith. But already in the 16th Century, the notable theologian Martin Chemnitz had clearly shown that faith is in no way acquired by man’s own free will or by virtue of his own powers. It was not and is not necessary to formulate a new approach to teaching justification in order to guard against synergism. Already here in his 16th Century Enchiridion Chemnitz had defeated the 19th century synergists.]